GOP Convention Names More Latinos To Starring Roles

Latinos – who constitute a critical voting bloc – will be featured prominently at this year’s Republican National Convention, with more than the usual number of Latinos planned as speakers.

Just two days after the Republican National Committee announced that New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will be a featured speaker at the 2012 convention, it released a statement Wednesday saying that U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and Tea Party favorite, and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, will also have prominent speaking roles at the event.

Thus far, though, the three Latinos fall short of the six Latinos who addressed the RNC convention in 2008 and the five who did so in 1992.

More may yet be added; the RNC is not done announcing all of its convention speakers, and the GOP’s most visible Latino – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio – is still on the short list of possible running mates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. If someone else is chosen, Rubio is likely to play a very high-profile role at the convention.

The prominence of Latinos on the speaker roster at this year’s RNC convention aims to accomplish several things – chiefly, trying to counter the image of the party as one that favors non-Hispanic white men and is biased against Latinos, and trying to show itself as a party that has turned out formidable Latino politicians and political candidates.

RNC Spokesperson Alexandra Franceschi said: "Governor Martinez, Senate Candidate Cruz, and Governor Fortuño are all exceptional examples of Hispanics who fundamentally believe in the Republicans values of a limited government, lower taxes, less regulation, and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream and will share them with Americans across the country during the convention."

Though the 2008 Republican convention presented six Latino speakers, it was widely criticized for lacking diversity among its delegates – 93 percent of its delegates were non-Hispanic white, five percent were Hispanic and two percent were black, according to polls. At the Democratic convention, 65 percent of the delegates were white, 11 percent were Hispanic and 23 percent were black.

On Wednesday, the RNC press release announcing the addition to the speaker list of Cruz and Fortuño, as well as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, said:  “These five remarkable individuals will bring a diversity of experiences and perspectives to the convention stage in Tampa, where they will voice their support for Governor Mitt Romney.”

“They have each served the public in their own impressive ways,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, “and they all share a dedication to the Republican principles of individual opportunity, responsible government and personal liberty.”

The RNC announcements about Martínez, Cruz and Fortuño come one week after the Democratic National Committee grabbed headlines with its selection of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as the keynote speaker of its convention. The selection of Castro, a rising star who is seen as a possible future presidential candidate, makes history – he is the first Latino to be the keynote speaker at a DNC convention.

The RNC actually beat the DNC -- by almost 30 years -- in that regard. The 1984 RNC convention keynote speaker was Katherine Ortega, then the U.S. Treasurer, who was the most prominent Hispanic official in the Reagan Administration.

In her speech at the Dallas gathering, Ortega said: “To those millions of Democrats abandoned by their national leadership in San Francisco — Democrats who were shut out of their traditional party home, we Republicans here in Dallas say: We welcome you to our home. Nuestra casa es su casa. Our home is your home."

Glaringly absent, so far, from a prominent role at the RNC convention is Rubio, whom the Romney campaign said it is considering as a running mate.

Rubio has enjoyed a high profile this year as he’s campaigned for Romney in various states and frequently appeared on television to promote the former Massachusetts governor.

Recent published reports, however, quote unnamed sources described as close to the Romney campaign as saying that Romney is leaning toward former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or Ohio Sen. Rob Portman for a running mate.

The Romney campaign has not yet officially named a keynote speaker, though rumors have circulated about several possibilities, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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